J. Steigerwald column for 9.15/16.12

Clint Hurdle should have been fired last Tuesday. But, he shouldn’t have been fired by the General Manager because Neal Huntington should have been fired about five minutes before Hurdle .
The Pirates had lost to the Cincinnati Reds 4-3 in 14 innings the night before. And that was after they had lost the previous three games in Chicago.
Team owner Bob Nutting should have greeted the players in the visitors’ clubhouse in Cincinnati and said this: “Congratulations, guys. You just got your manager and your general manager fired. Clint will be replaced by ________whom you’ll be meeting in a few minutes.”
“I will not stand by and let it happen again. Last year you guys made history with a collapse of biblical proportions after being in first place in July. Here we are now in the second week of September and you look like you’re on the way to doing it again.”
“I know we’re only the Pirates and I know there is a well established culture of losing around here. (He should be raising his voice and maybe waving his arms right about here.) But I am not conceding anything. The other teams in the wild card race have been nice enough to stink as much as you have and this can be turned around. I don’t know if __________can get you to play any better but I’m pretty damn sure he can’t get you to play worse.”
That’s what Nutting should have said if he thinks he is the owner of a real Major League Baseball team. That’s what real owners of real teams do every once in a while. They get fed up and go with a knee jerk reaction even when they know that there’s no guarantee it’s going to work. They send a message to the entire organization that everybody is accountable and losing will no longer be accepted. In this case, the message would be that epic collapses were no longer accepted.
It might not have been fair to Hurdle and Huntington, but when
is it ever fair to make only the manager or coach pay for the terrible performance of players? If a manager who follows the worst collapse in Major League Baseball history with another collapse that is every bit as bad doesn’t deserve to be fired, what manager does?
Hurdle has done a great job for the Pirates for two first halves and he’s the most media savvy and media friendly manager they’ve had since Chuck Tanner. He never had much of a chance with the roster he was given, but you don’t get players’ attention by firing a first base coach, a scout or even a general manager.
Nutting needed to send a message and he missed the chance.
Then again, maybe he did send a message by doing nothing. A very loud and very clear one.
- If I were the Steelers, I wouldn’t trade Ben Roethlisberger to the Baltimore Ravens for Joe Flacco. I think Roethlisberger is the best quarterback in the AFC North, but I also think that it’s no longer such a slam dunk. He was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week after going 21-29 for 299 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions in the Ravens’ 44-13 win over the Bengals. Some Steelers fans seem to dismiss Flacco as just another quarterback, but he’s a lot more than that. He has owned the Steelers recently and he outplayed Tom Brady in last season’s AFC Championship game. If not for a dropped pass on a perfectly thrown ball in the end zone, he would have taken the Ravens to the Super Bowl.
- Meanwhile, Roethliusberger seems to get a pass from fans who have been willing to set other Steelers quarterbacks’ homes on fire for less than throwing a pick-six on the final possession. Roethlisberger did that and he also missed a wide open Heath Miller in the end zone earlier in the opening game loss to the Broncos. I’m not suggesting for a minute that the Steelers lost in Denver because of him. Quarterback was way down the list of reasons for the Steelers losing last Sunday night and he was one of their best players. But Roethlisberger has played two less than brilliant games in a row. He put up a 75.9 passer rating in the Wild Card game in Denver last January.
- The entire Steelers’ offense may need to step it up quite a bit this season if they are going to make the playoffs. It’s beginning to look like key players on the defense can’t be counted on to play a lot of games. If the over/under on the number of games James Harrison will play is 10, put me down for under. Same thing if the number is 12 for Troy Polamalu. One of these years, the age of the Steelers’ defense has to catch up to them.


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